Corpus Domini – The Miracle of Bolsena

May 30, 2008 / Local Interest
Corpus Domini, also known as the “Miracle of Bolsena” occurred in 1263 when a German priest named Peter of Prague stopped in the lakeside town of Bolsena to hold mass above the tomb of Santa Cristina while on a pilgrimage to Rome.

Peter however doubted the transubstantiation, but as he readied himself to give communion the bread turned blood red; the liquid then spilled onto the white altar cloth, forming a stain that resembled the profile of Jesus, as well as the onto the marble floor and into the grotto of St. Christina, where the stain can still be seen today.

A miracle? A mystery? The Catholic Church has always denied it. A year after it occurred however, Pope Urban IV declared it a miracle. Recently, the Academies of Science have attributed it to a microscopic fungus that can germinate in bread dough and turn it blood red.

In any case, Corpus Domini takes place 9 weeks after Easter, in almost every city and town in Italy. The traditional celebration begins with elaborately designed religious objects and scenes, made entirely of flowers and arranged by hand directly onto the pavement.

A procession ensues around the streets of the town led by the local priest, and blessings are given at temporary private altars, around which the flowered designs are displayed. The priest steps over the flowers, blesses the altars, and then the procession continues, after which the streets are hosed down and the flowers washed away, to return . . . as if by miracle . . .the following year.

Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant.

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